Shoaib fit for series finale

Pakistan have confirmed that Shoaib Akhtar will be fit to play in the NatWest Series decider against England at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday.

Veteran paceman Shoaib had been a doubt after picking up a side injury on Monday when the tourists levelled the series at 2-2 with a 38-run win at Lord’s.

The result means Pakistan have fought back from 2-0 down to force a winner-takes-all showdown under the floodlights on the south coast.

However Pakistan’s preparations for the match have again been hampered by off-field issues, this time over the future of team manager Yawar Saeed.

Rumours surfaced from Pakistan that 75-year-old Saeed – media contact for the tourists throughout a difficult summer – had quit his post. But within minutes, he said: “I have not resigned – and neither has anyone else.”

Monday’s match at Lord’s was overshadowed by controversy after Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt made an unsubstantiated allegation that England had been bribed to lose the third game of the series on Friday.

England captain Andrew Strauss strongly refuted the claim and has since made it clear he and his team will consider legal action against Butt if that is the best way to protect their reputations.

Further adding to the tension was an altercation between England batsman Jonathan Trott and Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz in the nets prior to play.

An ECB spokesman said on Tuesday: “The matter is closed. The match referee has judged the matter to be closed, and therefore we see it hat way too.”

Ian Bell admitted Warwickshire team-mate Trott reacted as if nothing had happened following the incident in the nets that threatened to delay the start of the game.

“Things like this can be hard to get over, but when I saw Trotty he acted as if nothing had happened and he’d dealt with it. We just got on with our warm-ups and trying to win the game,” he said.

Bell, who was recalled to the one-day side having hit a century in the Clydesdale Bank 40 final on Saturday, insists the players remain focused on cricket and are “desperate” to win the final game and take out the series.

“I think it will be just two competitive teams striving to win,” the right-handed batsman said.

“It is a huge game now, and our guys are desperate to win the match. We’ll leave the rest up to the ECB.

“I’m sure we’ll be ready to go to finish the summer on a high. We have to put in a massive performance to try to secure this series win now.

“It is a final for us. When the big games come up England are often at their best, just like in the Twenty20 World Cup, so let’s hope that is the case here.” – Skysports